Health workers in Cameroon are fighting a cholera outbreak that claimed 13 lives this week in two major cities of the central African state. The outbreak, which has affected several hundred people, comes as Cameroon prepares to host the African Football Cup of Nations, or AFCON, in about two months.
Cameroon’s health minister Manaouda Malachie in a release this week said thousands of civilians in the capital city Yaounde and Ekondo-Titi, an English-speaking western town, are threatened by cholera.
Cholera is an infectious and often fatal bacterial disease of the small intestine, typically contracted from infected water supplies and food. It causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and can kill within hours if left untreated.
Amos Kome Njikang, the medical doctor in charge of the Ekondo-Titi hospital, dispatched health workers to the community to search for and transport cholera patients to the hospital.
“Four more cases came in between yesterday and early this morning,” he said. “We have made plans for the transportation of new cases from the community to the health facility at Bamousso. We have also tried to increase personal hygiene, hand washing, washing of whatever we consume. We are trying to tell them how to purify water before they drink.”
The health ministry said several hundred patients were rushed to hospitals in Yaounde and Ekondo-Titi. The government said it recorded at least 13 cholera-related deaths in the two towns since Monday.
It’s feared the outbreak may have claimed more lives in villages which lack health infrastructure.
This week, the ministry of health said it dispatched several dozen health workers to warn civilians that eating uncooked food and unwashed fruits, or drink water that’s not boiled, increases the risk getting cholera.
The cholera outbreak comes as Cameroon prepares to host the African Football Cup of Nations, AFCON, starting on January 9.
Yaounde, which will host teams from eight African nations in the continental soccer event, has reported at least 100 cholera cases.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Yaounde mayor Luc Messi Atangana said he’s cleaning up the city and improving the drinkable water supply to stop cholera from spreading.
He said the outbreak is provoked by increased refuse dumped by civilians on street corners, and he’s hired 30 trash trucks to add to 200 others that clear Yaounde of municipal solid waste. He expects Yaounde to be clean and free from cholera within the next two weeks.
The health ministry said the cholera outbreak may be difficult to contain. Less than 30 percent of the population visits hospitals either because of ignorance or because some civilians prefer traditional African medicine. Health workers are urging civilians to refer suspected cholera cases to the nearest hospitals.